Sylvia Earle’s Quest to Save the Blue Heart of the Planet

~A Guest Post by Hillary Kenyon

If you love the ocean, we hope that the name Sylvia Earle sounds familiar. Dr. Sylvia Earle is a lifetime marine scientist and conservationist. Known to many as Her Deepness, she is famous among the ocean exploration community, and has dedicated her life as an ocean steward and leader. Sylvia's passionate energy has inspired many, and she has been a strong voice in ocean policy improvements.

Just last week Dr. Earle travelled to China to speak to a wide audience about overfishing and the perils of the shark fin trade.  Recent years have brought an increasing awareness of this global issue, but sharks all over the world continue to be hunted for their fins to supply the shark fin soup industry. Shark fin soup is a popular Asian dish that serves as a cultural status indicator among it's consumers. Many of the people who eat the dish, however, have no idea that shark fins are often harvested in a cruel and gruesome manner - the fins are sliced off from the living animals and then the shark's bodies are discarded back into the ocean.

Although this extremely wasteful practice has been made illegal in many countries, it is difficult to regulate fishing on the high seas. As a result, shark populations have decreased drastically, including populations off the American coast. Scientific researchers estimate that certain species of sharks have declined by 75 - 90%, a harrowing number with equally frightening implications for marine ecosystems as a whole. Dr. Earle hopes to convey the message that sharks, as well as the ocean in general, need our help. We should not support the destructive fishery and should instead limit our personal intake of seafood while trying to make educated and sustainable dinner choices.

In her new documentary, Mission Blue, Sylvia poses the question, "How can we use the ocean, and not use it up?" Her answer lies in a simple network of 'Hope Spots.' Just as national parks preserve thousands of miles on land, marine protected areas and underwater sanctuaries that prohibit fishing allow for rebounding populations of entire aquatic ecosystems. As of 2014, less than 3% of the ocean is protected. Mission Blue's goal is at least 20% by 2020, and the American Shark Conservancy hopes to share in this passionate pursuit.

"Conscious efforts have shown that if you make an investment to care for a place, it can recover and be a symbol for hope...This is the moment. Our decisions, our actions, will shape everything that follows."

- Dr. Sylvia Earle.

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